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Jamming in North Lake County 

Christmas Valley Music Festival supports children's charities in a beautiful minimalist setting


en Rougeou, a talented bass player from New Orleans who played with a band called Ma Fondue, loved the Christmas Valley Music Festival. Last year, suffering from cancer, he made the trip out.

He got out of bed, sat on his chair, played the concert, and at the end of the night, stood up and sang lead vocals in the "We are the World"-style group jam. Unfortunately, since last year's festival, the world lost Rougeou.

In celebration of Rougeou's life, the fifth annual Christmas Valley Music Festival features a pick-up group, including members of Ma Fondue, paying tribute to Rougeou. For the last several years, funds raised at the festival have gone to not only feed underprivileged children in North Lake County, but also to support a scholarship (named after Rougeou) for students pursuing a music major or minor in college. Festival organizer Earl Diment plans to award the recipient with the $2,000 check just before the tribute band plays.

Charity, community outreach and getting musicians together in the remote area have always been at the forefront of the Christmas Valley Music Festival. Diment and his partner in event planning, Brad Rehn, came across a program called High Desert Brain Food, which has been a major recipient of funds raised by the festival. With Christmas Valley schools only open four days a week, some students may not eat from the time school doors close on Thursday until they open on Monday, they say.

"Our goal is to keep a budget, pay our bills, feed the kids—which we fed them for five months last year (up from two and a half months the year before) and maintain a scholarship," Diment says. "If all the funding went away, our goal is that we could still pull off one more festival. We just have a blast."

This year's festival includes a full lineup of varying styles. Alexa Wiley & the Wilderness play acoustic, folk rock in a quirky style. DC Malone plays old wave rock and roll. Diment's band, Loose Change, gets a little more psychedelic. The Ventilators have a blues/rock slant and Michael Manning is a little more mellow. The Crazed Weasels blend bluegrass and comedy. It's a lineup that appeals to a broad range of people.

"Every year the community really does support it. Initially, it was a way to get musicians out here. We live out here in this devastatingly wonderful spot. Other than giving music to the community and feeding kids, it's fun to see the festival through their [attendees'] eyes; it's kind of a great motivator."

Christmas Valley Music Festival

Saturday, Aug 12. 2-10pm.

Flowerree Memorial Park

Christmas Valley Hwy, Christmas Valley

$5-$20/suggested donation.

About The Author

Anne Pick

Music Writer | The Source Weekly
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